Contrary to Intelligence Estimates, al-Qaeda Is Still Strong

Dec. 13 2016

Over the past eight years, the signature element of the Obama administration’s conduct of the war on al-Qaeda has been increased drone strikes against the organization’s leaders. These, according to officials, have degraded it to the edge of defeat. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross calls this view into question, citing, among other things, complaints from the U.S. Central Command over political pressure to produce rosy evaluations of the wars against al-Qaeda and Islamic State. (Interview by the Cipher Brief.)

[I]f one looks at the number of countries that violent, non-state actors have brought to ruin or have cleaved apart, it’s rather alarming. They range from Mali to Libya to Yemen, to Iraq and Syria—none of which was on fire in this way at the beginning of President Obama’s watch.

So what went wrong? Obviously, not all of this can be attributed to the president’s policies. . . . But we can reasonably criticize the decision to intervene in Libya. That’s where things really went off the rails. The Libya intervention ended up creating more regional chaos, at a time when there were already governments being overthrown in Egypt and Tunisia. Libya has remained a jihadist hotbed since Muammar Qaddafi’s fall, and the war there directly led to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) takeover of northern Mali, which is of course connected to the jihadist insurgency that exists there today. . . .

[Another] thing I would point to is that the Obama administration’s evaluation of the decline of al-Qaeda’s core was, in my judgment, not correct. Therefore, I believe that counterterrorism policy has often proceeded from a mistaken set of assumptions. . . .

[Al-Qaeda] clearly has been damaged, but the broader question is how much did this damage weaken it overall? Al-Qaeda’s core leadership is meant to be resilient in the face of attrition. Obviously, whenever senior leaders are taken out and someone like bin Laden is killed, there is a degree of weakening. But I’m skeptical that it was weakened as much as popular conception holds.

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Read more at Cipher Brief

More about: Al Qaeda, Barack Obama, Intelligence, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror